Polyscias fruticosa

In the case of many of the genera in this website, it has been noted that horticulture has unfortunately passed them by. Those were only genera, but here we have a whole family that has been largely neglected, for apart from Schefflera, Fatsia, Hedera and their hybrid x Fatshedera, the Araliaceae are only very occasionally encountered in cultivation. And yet it would surely not be difficult to select from the more than 700 species the smaller, decorative forms that could be used for permanent, evergreen room decoration.

Polyscias fruticosa (syn. Tieghemopanax frutico-sus) is native to south-east Asia, where it was also introduced into cultivation and is among the most popular of plants. Growers have even succeeded in raising more decorative garden forms, for example in Vietnam a variegated form with large creamy-white areas on the leaves, and a form with twisted leaves that give the shrub a very compact look.

The shrub is approximately 80 cm (32 in) high; only old specimens may grow to a height of 1.5 m (5 ft). The compound leaves are about 40 cm (16 in) long, the leaflets 3 to 10 cm (VI* to 4 in) long. The entire plant is fragrant. The flowers are insignificant and have no ornamental value. The fruits are berries.

These plants are most attractive in a bonsai arrangement or grown in flat dishes on tufa. The shrub does well, of course, even if grown in more traditional containers. The compost should be porous, composed of peat, loam and sand, John Innes potting compost being ideal.

Propagation is simple, either by seeds (these, however, are slow to germinate and do not do so at the same time) or by tip cuttings which rapidly form roots in a peat and sand mixture. The shrub stands up very well to pruning so that it can be trimmed to the desired shape.

In its native land polyscias is widely distributed in both tropical and subtropical regions. A period of winter rest is therefore recommended but it will do very well even without it. If it has ample light and heat in winter, watering should not be limited and the shrub will continue growth even during this season. Feed, of course, should be supplied mainly during the growth period, in other words in summer.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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